Facts About the Impact of Migraine

  • Forty-two million Americans have migraine. Migraine attacks typically start during adolescence or the 20s.
  • 52% of people living with migraine disease are undiagnosed by a healthcare provider.
  • Migraine is misdiagnosed as tension (a catch-all phrase) or sinus headache (a relatively rare condition) almost as frequently as it is correctly diagnosed.
  • Migraine affects 13% of the population, and one in every four U.S. households has someone living with migraine.
  • It is estimated that industry loses $31 billion annually due to absenteeism, lost productivity, and medical expenses caused by migraine.
  • 70% of all people living with migraine disease are women.
  • 24% of people living with migraine disease report headaches so severe that they have sought emergency room care
  • More than half (51%) of people living with migraine disease report a 50% or more reduction in work and/or school productivity, and 66% report a 50% or more reduction in household work productivity.

Migraine Symptoms And Triggers
Migraine is characterized by throbbing head pain, usually located on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and/or sound. The combination of disabling pain and associated symptoms often prevents sufferers from performing daily activities. Symptoms, incidence and severity vary by individual.

Less than one-third of people with migraine experience what is known as “aura.” They may see light flashes, blind spots, zigzag lines, and shimmering lights and may experience vision loss and numbness prior to the head pain and other symptoms.

Many things may trigger a migraine. Triggers are not the same for everyone, and what causes a migraine in one person may relieve it in another. Triggers may include one or more of the following categories: diet, activity, environment, emotions, medications, and hormones.

Typically, people living with migraine experience an average of two attacks per month, which can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. Migraine attacks tend to occur in three phases: preheadache, the headache itself, and post-headache. The pre-headache phase can last for several hours. The post-headache phase can last up to two days and can feature nausea, exhaustion and other mood changes.

Profile of People Living With Migraine Disease
Migraine afflicts both women and men, although three times more women experience migraine. Peak prevalence for migraine is between 20 – 45 years old for both genders. Migraine is often hereditary. If both parents have them, there is a 75% chance their children will have them; when only one parent experiences migraine, there is a 50% chance the child will develop migraine. If even a distant relative has migraine headaches, a 20% chance exists that any offspring will be prone to migraine headaches.

While there are no definite answers to the causes of migraine, healthcare professionals are gaining an understanding of what happens when a migraine attack is in progress. Current theory suggests that migraines are triggered from within the brain itself. Once an attack begins, the pain and other symptoms of migraine arise from an inflammatory process resulting from an interaction between the trigeminal nerve and blood vessels in the coverings of the brain. Serotonin (or 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT), a naturally occurring chemical in the brain, has been implicated in this inflammatory process.

Migraine can be effectively managed. With the help of a healthcare provider, patients can identify and alleviate their symptoms with an appropriate treatment regimen. Medications generally fall into two categories:

  • Preventive – Taken daily, preventive medications can help reduce the number of attacks in patients who experience more than two migraine attacks per month.
  • Abortive – Abortive therapy treats the symptoms of migraine after the attack begins. Many medications available to treat an acute attack must be taken as soon as the attack occurs; otherwise, they may be less effective.

Non-drug treatments can be effective, especially when used in conjunction with medication. Strategies include relaxation techniques, proper sleep and diet habits, exercise, and avoidance of behaviors or situations that may trigger an attack. Biofeedback has also been used successfully, as have acupuncture, massage, and simple heat and cold applications.